Hi, I’m Ford Quarterman, and I’m currently driving to the end of the world.
After nearly 3 years of travel through Europe, Asia, and America, and depending on every form of transportation imaginable to get around, I have decided to take on the ultimate road trip: The Pan-American Highway, which spans all the way from USA to Argentina.
Think I’m crazy? Well, blame my grandpa for cursing his descendants with chronic wanderlust.
Gramps used to pile his family in the RV & road trip across the country every summer. He lived with the eskimos in Nome, Alaska for 2 years, where he worked as a weatherman. He made plenty of trips piloting his Cessna plane, including one straight through the St. Louis Gateway Arch, and another across the Bering Straight just to see if he could land on a Soviet airstrip, without permission. He traveled to many countries & had countless stories.
Inspired by his sense of adventure, we never were a “thing” family, more of an “experience” family, and spent our money on vacations & traveling around the country together.
I got a taste of the the rest of world on short-term soccer/missions jaunts here & there, but it was my first solo backpacking trip that really impacted me. Here’s how I got to where I am today:
The Wake-Up Call
I went to Europe in the summer of 2008 as a mislead 21-year old, expecting to be greeted with open arms like I was some sort of WW2 veteran. I thought, “Everyone will want to be friends with me & be interested in learning about life in the United States, right? After all, the USA is the leader of the free world, the rest of the planet looks to our example for everything.” I was the typical, ignorant, first-time American traveler.
What I found instead was a bunch of anti-American sentiment, & tons of people who were more cultured & informed than me who wanted to talk about it.
The global economy had just started to crash, George Bush was still in office as a lame-duck president, & the conflicts in Iraq & Afghanistan were starting to look a lot like Vietnam War 2.
I found myself talking about U.S. politics almost every night in hostels all over Europe, most of the time against my own will. I couldn’t even defend my own country properly in English, yet most people I met could destroy my nation’s foreign policies in 5 different languages.
Looking back, that was the best part of my first backpacking trip through Europe. Of course the cultures, food, site-seeing, & architecture were great, but my brash, & unexpectedly blunt exposure to the world was priceless for me. I felt small, sheltered, & naive – and I was hooked.
I came back changed, and it wasn’t just that I didn’t look like Chad Kroeger anymore. Everything about traveling out of a backpack was so exciting, but it would be 5 years more years before I’d get another taste.
Backpack > Cubicle
I wanted to go abroad to teach English & learn Spanish as soon as I graduated college, but I got a job offer I couldn’t refuse. I worked for a few years and saw the typical 9-5 career path open up in front of me, but I was too restless, too young, & too single to choose it.
So I quit and bought a plane ticket to take on the fabled backpacking circuit of Southeast Asia. And just like every westerner who goes to Asia, I found myself.
Ok ok, maybe I didn’t “find myself” in Southeast Asia. But I did have an epiphany while I was there. I realized that this nomadic & experiential way of life didn’t have to be short-term, that I could spend my next years learning about life & developing as a person while seeing the world.
Upon returning back to the U.S., I spent the summer traveling stateside & getting my TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) degree, and moved to Costa Rica.
Commence: Gringo Years
Within 3 weeks, I met a beautiful Mexican girl on the beach. Within a few months, she convinced me to leave my English teaching job in San Jose and move to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to really live the Pura Vida. And within a few more months, we found ourselves on a plane bound for Brazil & the World Cup!
The World Cup in Brazil was the global melting-pot party of a lifetime, but it was backpacking through Argentina & Bolivia when I had my next realization.
I had finally reached the point in my Spanish where I felt like I could start to effectively express myself & really connect with Spanish-speaking people. It was like traveling for the first time again, but on a different level. It was then that I decided that I wanted to travel ALL of America, from North to Central to South, soaking up the culture, diversity, beauty, & adventure that each country has to offer, all while continuing towards my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish.
Road tripping the Pan-American Highway
After more months of relying on public transportation to travel around Mexico & Cuba, we decided that we had had enough to relying on other people’s schedules. We wanted to be the masters of our own destiny, and go wherever we wanted to, when we wanted to.
So I bought I car, and we pulled out from my house in Toccoa, GA on October 19, 2015 to start our journey on the Pan-American highway. I reckon the trip will take at least 2 years, and will involve:
- Volunteering & missions work with charities, non-profits, churches, orphanages, human-trafficking centers, people in need, etc. (Christian & non-Christian)
- Plugging into local communities & assistance with community development
- Documentation of my Spanish progress as I confront the challenges of traveling as a gringo in Latin America
- Exploring & really getting off the beaten path
- Also exploring the touristy places. They’re popular for good reason!
- Showcasing the cultures, people, foods, natural beauty, and all the best adventures encountered along the way
- Lots of shoestring budgeting & travel tips
- Sharing the trip with locals, other travelers, or friends who we meet along the way (our 3 back seats are open!)
As of early 2016, I have decided to continue my trip solo. My plan is to meet people along the way, share the trip and gas costs with who I pick up, and show as much of the journey as I can through photos, videos, podcasts & stories on this blog.
I hope this site can be useful or inspiring to you in some way. Whether you’re needing help planning a trip, looking to learn Spanish in a fun, experiential way, or looking to get involved with volunteering, my goal is to provide at least something helpful to others who are interested in exploring America.
So here I am – it’s been over 4 years since I quit my job & have been on the road nearly full-time. I’ve been to 34 countries so far, & only God knows how many more years & countries are yet to come! Thank you for choosing to be a part of this with me, and feel free to come back and see just what exactly I’m getting myself into, every time you ask yourself…
“Where’s the Gringo?”
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